Natalie Dayharsh, a 17-year-old senior at Danville High School, was the winner of the recent QHRAI Youth Racing Experience event held at Indiana Grand Saturday, June 29. Dayharsh received a $2,000 scholarship from the Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana (QHRAI) and will advance to the national American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Youth Racing Experience during the Bank of America Challenge. The event is set for The Downs at Albuquerque in New Mexico Saturday, Oct. 26, which will offer more scholarship prize money to the top contenders for the Youth Racing Experience events from across the nation.
A native of Coatesville, Ind., Dayharsh is an avid barrel racer. She started participating in 4-H in fifth grade and developed a love of horses from that point forward. She is a member of the National Barrel Horse Association, the International Barrel Racing Association and competes at local shows. She has also completed with the Thoroughbred Barrel Racing Association as well as the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. She is a member of her school’s FFA program and competes with the Horse Evaluation CDE. Her team from Danville High School was the State Champion Senior Team and she placed as the top individual in the State.
“I wanted to participate in the QHRAI’s Youth Day Experience because I’ve always been fond of restarting off-the-track horses,” said Dayharsh. “I wanted to know more about the inner workings of life at the racetrack.”
Dayharsh was among 10 talented students participating in this year’s event at Indiana Grand. QHRAI noted it was a difficult decision to pick an overall winner.
“It was so hard for us to choose as all of the participants were capable of being first,” said Vickie Duke, vice president of QHRAI and coordinator for the local Youth Racing Experience. “The test at the end of the day was the determining factor.”
Participants in the QHRAI Youth Racing Experience started off their day with hands on work in the barn area with various Quarter Horse trainers. They heard from industry experts in all aspects of racing and visited several locations on the track, from the racing office and Indiana Horse Racing Commission to the starting gate and track maintenance facility. At the conclusion of the day, each student took a test on what they had learned during the program and accompanied a trainer to the paddock during a Quarter Horse race to see the process of preparing a horse for the race.
In addition to Dayharsh receiving the top scholarship of $2,000, second place finisher Gabi Paxson of Pennville, Ind. received a $1,000 scholarship. QHRAI also awarded $500 to the third, fourth and fifth place finishers for the QHRAI Youth Racing Experience.
Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing continues through Wednesday, Nov. 6. Racing is conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:15 p.m. and Saturday at 6:15 p.m. More information about the season is available at www.indianagrand.com.